Monday, December 1

Why watching Gandhi fucking Penelope Cruz is wrong...and other ruminations on the film Elegy


I've just watched the Ben Kingsley film Elegy, an austere adaptation of one of Philip Roth's recent novels, A Dying Animal.

But first things first, the new trains between Galway and Dublin are becoming more common than the old trains and so it is now actually possible to plug in the trusty old laptop - since the battery lasts roughly 4 minutes on its own - and watch a legally-obtained movie on it...I'm sure mininova's Axxo wouldn't be involved in the nefarious underworld of illegal torrent uploading would he/she?

I haven't really watched a film on the train before, due to the shitness of said battery, and so it is an unusually conflicting circumstance in which I find myself.
It's all very well cracking open the computay but, despite my firm atheism, Irish Catholicism still has a pleasureless grip on my conscience at times and the film has got boobs in it.
Boobs?
On a public train?
Jaysus.
I can feel that tea-supping, Twix-gobbling biddy behind me, drowning her friend with the spittle-soaked news that some devilman is titillating himself a few seats away with them 'Cruz missiles' while there are children within a 100-mile radius.

Surely I'll burn in hell.

Anyway, I watched the film so balls to her. On with the opinions.

Roth has long been an observer and diarist, in his novels, of the mind-workings of the modern male and in this Nicholas Meyer adaptation (Meyer incidentally also adapted Roth's The Human Stain, which proved to be a pretty underwhelming film overall) we meet David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) an erudite, shaven-headed, sexual predator of an old-but-sexy Coloumbia University professor who beds his fave fawning female students every year...but only after their final grades have been given.
When he claps eyes on the phenomenally hot Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) their ensuing relationship takes him to places of jealousy and idiocy his little shiny head has never been and to a melodramatic climax that cannot ruin what is essentially a piece of upper middle-class romantic drama tosh aimed at those who know their Goya from their Manet and like their cerebral, funereal film-making served up with an Argentinian Malbec and a hand shandy to Mozart (Which in the book, Kepesh actually does indulge in).

Quite.

Everything in this film is working so hard to impress.
The pretensions are bubbling there all the time and as Kepesh becomes the saboteur of his relationship with Consuela, you wonder what it is she really sees in him beyond his intellectual prowess and finely-trimmed goatee.
Director Isabel Coixet (director of the excellent My Life Without Me) employs some camera tricks familiar to Stephen Soderbergh fans out there as the lens lingers on faces, bobbing slightly with different parts focusing and unfocusing and we are left with silences and 'heavy themes' to deal with along with finely-polished production values and a predictably weighty classical score.
We are also left with a film that promises - and indeed Kepesh's narration suggests as much - violent desire, yearning, palpable sexual hunger and emotional trauma but, through this medium, Roth's visceral detail is torn away like meat from a bone and you are left with...well, a bone.
Dennis Hopper is fine as Kepesh's poet friend and both Patricia Clarkson (as a lover)and Peter Sarsgaard (as Kepesh's son) are more than welcome in any film really, but the whole thing just teeters from set-piece to set-piece, not coming off the screen hard enough to make you really care what the fuck happens.
Kepesh is not a likeable man. He's a 60-something horny teen with juvenile emotional reactions and a smug demeanour that makes you quietly desire the worst happens to him.
Cruz is gorgeous and not bad. Her part requires that she portray the object of desire (but with a brain) and she is never less than convincing.
But again, it's hard to really care too much.
When the final act arrives and the 'twist' is revealed you will, I hope, groan like I did and bemoan the heavy-handedness of this piece of up-its-own-arsery and go watch a really wonderful pretentious film like Solaris.

3 comments:

cha said...

Solaris, the remake? Couldnt watch it now for imagining Hank Moody as an interstellar Natasha McElhone-botherer gettn razhed with clooney.

...but only after their final grades have been given... Is this what disqualifies him as a total letch? Hmmm, end of term next week, hand-in date monday...im off to work.

adam said...

Do it. Mention that you have a Kafka letter on your bedroom wall and see them lovelorn student blarteens flock to you like a raver to Brighton.

gandalfeeneydawhiterthanwhite said...

Cruz Missiles - I love it! Next time you're feelin dangerous on the train stick on Peter Greenway film - the biddies will cast you off the train in some shithole like... Portarlington